Notes from Utah Jazz media day
If anything, Monday’s media day at the Zions Bank Basketball Center was quieter than the last few years. Why? Simply put: Al Jefferson wasn’t around to give everyone a hard time.
Best way to describe the Jazz’s departed leading scorer, who signed an offseason contract with the Charlotte Bobcats? Gone but not forgotten.
Jefferson’s departure opened up the frontcourt to blossoming big men Derrick Favors and, even more so, Enes Kanter. Both talked about what they learned from two-plus years under the skillful big man, who for the last three seasons started alongside power forward Paul Millsap.
"Al and Paul were great players," Favors said, "obviously great scorers. So, obviously [we will try to] do what they used to do, but I think me and Enes can fill their role."
And how about when Kanter and Favors match up with their former mentors? The Jazz are in Charlotte on Dec. 21, one night after they play Millsap’s Atlanta Hawks. Kanter had one story from the offseason especially relevant to his matchup with Jefferson, who christened Kanter with his nickname, "Big Turk."
Kanter, who has a gift for telling stories even in his second language, was at the Peak Performance Project (P3) in Santa Barbara, Calif., where the Jazz train in the offseason. There with members of the Jazz coaching staff to train and continue his rehab from shoulder surgery, Kanter spotted a familiar face.
"I look over there and was like, Al is there," he remembered. "It was me, Al, Coach Corbin. He was telling Coach Corbin, game of the year. Match-up of the year. He says, ‘Don’t bring any double-team coach, we’re going to play one-on-one.’" Kanter, who turned 21 in May and has vowed he will maintain a lower off-the-court profile going forward, apparently maintained his knack for antagonizing Jefferson.
"I told him, ‘I’m going to dunk on you, I’m going to block you,’" Kanter said.
Of course, it was all in jest.
He’s a really good guy, he texted me the day he signed with Charlotte. He said, ‘I tried to help you, now it’s on you. I know you’re going to do really well.’ He’s just a real good guy."
General manager Dennis Lindsey says the Jazz’s No. 1 priority heading into the season is improving their defense.
Utah allowed 98.1 points a game last season. Opponents shot 45.8 percent from the field. By comparison, the NBA champion Miami Heat allowed 90.7 points and 43.6 percent shooting.
"Real simply," Lindsey said, "we want to develop a defensive foundation. I don’t think anything great is accomplished in this league unless you can get stops. ... The No. 1 goal is to build a championship-caliber defense."